Dallas Cowboys sign four-time Pro Bowl selection Anthony Barr to boost linebacker group
OXNARD, Calif. — The Cowboys have added a four-time Pro Bowler to their defense.
Dallas signed longtime Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr to a one-year deal on Wednesday.
He’ll mark the third first-round selection (Barr was drafted ninth overall in 2014) to a corps that already includes defensive rookie of the year Micah Parsons (12th overall, 2021) and veteran Leighton Vander Esch (19th, 2018).
Barr arrives after eight seasons with the Vikings, during which he started 98 games and collected 495 tackles, including 39 tackles for loss. Barr also deflected 31 passes, intercepted five passes and recorded 17 1⁄2 sacks.
He reunites with Cowboys senior defensive assistant George Edwards, who coordinated the Vikings defense for Barr’s first six career years.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn explained his linebacker philosophy on Wednesday shortly before the Cowboys announced the addition of Barr.
“Speed and length, from a physical stature, (is) a big part of it because we do play a good bit of man defenses,” Quinn said. “So can this player guard a tight end who’s got 6-4, 6-5 and speed to get long? And think of the guy who’s got to guard our backs out of the backfield. Sometimes that may be a different player based on a running back who’s 5-10 and 200 (pounds) who can really change direction compared to a 6-5 tight end.”
Tackling, Quinn continued, is “the name of the game.”
“Can you play square and strong and tackle? You can put the tape on and say, ‘He knows the ball’s going here.’ That’s the instinctual part of it.”
Barr missed most of the 2020 season after tearing his pectoral muscle in Week 2. The now-30-year-old returned to play 11 games games in 2021. His run of four straight Pro Bowls extended through 2018.
The Cowboys have expressed optimism that second-year linebacker Jabril Cox, who tore his ACL last October, could contribute meaningfully. Cox returned to full participation to start training camp, but then missed Tuesday’s practice due to what head coach Mike McCarthy described as a knee tweak.
“He’s so smooth just the way in his reaction and instincts,” McCarthy said of Cox. “The game comes natural to him. I think he’s quicker and faster than you may think.
“He was definitely lining up to get more opportunities (before) he had the injury on special teams. But on special teams he was actually playing extremely well…and defensively, his role was getting ready to expand.”
McCarthy said Cox would return to practice Thursday.
Signing Barr, team officials indicated, was of interest dating back to the spring. Wednesday, the Cowboys closed the deal despite what some considered more pressing needs at receiver and kicker.
If Barr is solid in coverage, the Cowboys would have more freedom to line up Parsons at defensive end.
That’s a goal, Quinn told USA TODAY Sports.
“I’ll do that again some this year, where he’d be a D-end for the game,” Quinn said. “When I feel like I need that, I’ll do it.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.